As we have explored numerous times in this blog over the years, the Internet is increasingly shaping political discourse, public scrutiny over elected representatives and our democratic life in general. The upcoming French parliamentary elections are proving once again that e-citizenship is gaining ground fast; for some this year, computers will replace the traditional ballot box.
A major pioneer of e-citizenship was Switzerland, where in some constituencies citizens are already entitled to vote online; now France is on the verge to cross this barrier. For the first time, as a pilot scheme, expatriates will be offered the opportunity to elect their Members of Parliament on the Internet. They will be saved from the effort of going a remote Consulate and queuing to fulfil their civic duties. I thought I was attached to the decorum around the elections, going to the elementary-school turned poll-office and hearing the familiar “A voté”, but, I have to admit that for me at least, pragmatism has won over principles.
If the experience proves efficient, it should be extended to more ballots and be available to all French voters. Given the very poor participation of expatriates in 2007 (as a shameful reminder, only 47% of French expats living in Belgium voted in the last presidential election) I can only hope that e-voting will raise the general commitment to democracy. Voting by a show of hands, male suffrage, and the poll tax are all antiques that political institutions gave up under social pressure. There is little doubt, in my view, that in a few decades e-voting will seem as natural as any other aspect of progress, either technological or societal.
In spite of the enthusiasm, there are still significant concerns around securing the integrity of the ballot. However, the Swiss encountered no major problems, and efficient solutions for identification and authentication exist e.g. electronic IDs; not to mention that so far I have never been robbed of my e-ordered pizza…
For information: www.monvotesecurise.votezaletranger.gouv.fr